New Haven, Connecticut - Eight members of a narcotics trafficking organization have been arrested for conspiring to distribute steroids and oxycodone in Connecticut, announced U.S. Attorney Deirdre M. Daly.
This indictment resulted from a three-year joint investigation conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), with the support of the U.S. Marshals Service and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, operating under the auspices of Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation dubbed "Operation Juice Box."
The arrests are the result of a long-term investigation into steroid and prescription pill distribution by multiple individuals, including a Newtown Police sergeant, a Newtown Police dispatcher and a Connecticut Judicial Marshal. The investigation, with included the use of wire and electronic surveillance for nearly two months, also revealed that members of the conspiracy allegedly imported steroids from China.
The eight defendants and their corresponding charges are as follows:
- Steven Santucci, 38, of Waterbury, and a Sergeant with the Newtown Police Department, conspiracy to distribute steroids
- Alex Kenyhercz, 28, of Ansonia, conspiracy to distribute oxycodone
- Mark Bertanza, 33, of Shelton, conspiracy to distribute steroids
- Jason Chickos, 46, of Bridgeport, and a civilian dispatcher with the Newtown Police Department, conspiracy to distribute steroids
- Frank Pecora, 53, of Derby, conspiracy to distribute oxycodone
- Jeffrey Gentile, 33, of Ansonia, and a Judicial Marshal with the State of Connecticut, conspiracy to distribute steroids
- Steven Fernandes, 54, of Southington, conspiracy to distribute steroids
- Michael D. Mase, 32, of Sherman, conspiracy to distribute steroids
As alleged in the government’s complaint affidavit, which was unsealed in court on April 30, Bertanza was a steroid distributer who obtained his steroids from Kenyhercz. Wiretap interceptions over cellular telephones used by Bertanza and Kenyhercz, along with physical surveillance of various steroid sales, revealed that Santucci was supplying steroids to Kenyhercz. Through the investigation, agents learned that Santucci has been receiving shipments of steroids and related materials from China since 2011 and has been manufacturing and distributing wholesale quantities of steroids. Santucci frequently used an application called WhatsApp to communicate with his customers. Chickos, Mase and Fernandes were Santucci’s steroid customers who, in turn, regularly distributed the steroids in smaller quantities to their own customers. Kenyhercz distributed quantities of steroids and prescription pills (including Roxicodone, Oxycodone, Suboxone and Opana). Gentile is alleged to be a steroid distributer, and Pecora is alleged to be a prescription pill distributer.
During the course of the investigation, law enforcement officers seized hundreds of vials of steroids, approximately 600 grams of raw testosterone powder, approximately 350 grams of powder cocaine, and four long guns.
"These arrests illustrate the ability of our law enforcement partners such as the U.S. Attorney’s Office and other federal agencies to leverage their individual resources to work together and achieve justice," said Bruce Foucart, special agent in charge of HSI in New England. "HSI continues to use its unique customs and immigration authorities to attack and dismantle these types of organizations, and will aggressively pursue leads, regardless of where that information may lead us."
"The international importation and sale of mass quantities of steroids in our communities is a serious offense that raises significant public health concerns," stated U.S. Attorney Daly. "I thank the agents and officers who have dedicated themselves to this difficult case. Through their hard work, they have identified and arrested the source of these steroids, thus preventing further harm to the community."
"The top criminal investigative program for the FBI is public corruption matters," stated FBI Special Agent in Charge Patricia M. Ferrick. "When law enforcement officers are involved in criminal activity, it brings a particular sense of urgency to the investigation. While disconcerting, this matter involving a Newtown Police Officer, a Connecticut Judicial Marshal, a Newtown Public Safety Dispatcher and others is not indicative of the fine work and dedication to public service exhibited by the vast majority of those individuals working within the criminal justice and law enforcement community. This ongoing investigation is being conducted in close collaboration between the FBI, the DEA, DHS, the U.S. Marshals Service, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and the Newtown Police Department."
"DEA and our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners are committed to investigating steroid trafficking organizations. We follow these investigations wherever they lead us – and in this case to a police officer," stated DEA Special Agent in Charge Michael J. Ferguson. "Wearing a shield does not give you a free pass to peddle this poison in our neighborhoods or to our families. This type of criminal behavior does not represent the fine work and dedication to public service that is exhibited by the vast majority of law enforcement officers."
Santucci, Kenyhercz, Bertanza, Chickos, Gentile, Fernandes and Mase have been released on bond. Pecora remains in federal custody pending a detention hearing on May 5, 2015.
Santucci, Bertanza, Gentile, Mase, Fernandes and Chickos, are charged with conspiracy to distribute steroids, which carries a maximum term of imprisonment of 10 years and a fine of up to $500,000. Pecora and Kenyhercz and charged with conspiracy to distribute oxycodone, which carries a maximum term of imprisonment of 20 years and a fine of up to $1 million.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Rahul Kale and Robert M. Spector are prosecuting this matter.
The public is reminded that an indictment contains only charges and is not evidence of guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent and are entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.